We were sitting in my truck, nestled in a low spot at the bottom of a railroad grade, watching the back of a trailer park in the nether region of industrial buildings and extremely low income housing, where Dallas sort of bleeds into Duncanville. Close to the old Frito Lay plant, not terribly far from where what was left of my mother's people lived.
There was a line of tall but scraggly bushes separating the railroad grade from the back of the trailer park. My truck was just tall enough for us to hide right there and scope out the trailer.
There wasn't much to the trailer park. From what I could see it looked mostly empty and dilapidated, long headed toward ruin. The air smelled of lost hope and desperation.
It was the kind of place people stayed when they paid by cash in weekly and monthly increments.
Home only to permanent transience.
The rain had picked up some, but not much. Just a soft, steady beat against the windshield.
“It's dark as shit in here.” He held his watch closer to his face. The engine was off, the lights killed by custom installed switch. I checked the Maratac on my wrist, the hands and numbers on it's face a subdued glow.
“What are you packing?” I asked.
Monster smiled, picked up his nylon bag off the floor and sat it in his lap. From it he pulled a black Ruger P90 DAO, and then double barrel that had been cut way, way, way down on both ends.
“Leave that shit.” I nodded toward the cut down shotgun. It was useless tonight. He looked at me like the thought gave him a bad taste in his mouth, but tossed it and the bag in the floor.
Assuming the intell was good, there were three inside with Chris and Tonya, which gave us a total of five. Not including the guy giving it to us.
His phone beeped in his hand, and he looked at it, touched his finger on the screen to scroll, before handing it to me.
The pictures were dim, taken without a flash. They showed three men lounging in the first room, on sofa and recliner.
I debated heavily what weapons to use. Long years at war, my time on the Task Force and after, had shaped my way of thinking. Very much a man of my generation and work, if I had suppressors available, which I did, my instinct was to use them by default.
The trailer was a 1970's era single wide. It one big open room split into a den and a kitchen/ dining room, and a short, narrow hallway with a tiny bathroom off it before the back bedroom. There would be another, smaller bedroom/ office off the main room, just to the right of the door.
I'd been in and out of more of them than I cared to think about.
The problem was that suppressors gave your enemy leverage to use against you when things got close and wet. There was nothing I had with a suppressor, immediately available,that I wanted to use in those narrow spaces. I'd fought in caves and tunnels and hovels with more room to move.
Actually, looking at the trailer park, it probably wasn't a fair comparison to the caves, tunnels, and hovels.
“When we're going to do this, man? What are we waiting on?”
“When we go in, I'm going to go fast. I'm going to move straight across the room. Hard. I need you to come in behind me, and peel right. I need you to check that little room at the end? We need to make sure we don't have anyone behind us.”
“Now, see, I could brace 'em with the shottie.”
“No. We need the girl alive.”
“Shit. That bitch is a bad guy to me. And you better have your head on straight 'bout that. She done lost her whiteness. She's pure nigger now. Straight up Oak Cliff. Trying to get over on her folks. She's gone worse than your girlfriend ever did.”
I took a deep breath, tried to will away the rage inside.
I knew there was truth in his words.
There were other things as well, but I didn't have time to dwell.
“Shit, you the big bag gunfighter, Johnny Reb. You say we don't need the shottie, fine. I'll leave it.” He racked the slide on his Ruger, chambering a round.
“Text your guy, tell him walk outside ten minutes from the time he responds to the text.”
I slipped out of the truck and quietly shut the door. The first thing I did was take a piss. I always pissed before an action. Next I opened the rear door, slipped my shirt off and dropped it on seat, and then pulled the heavy armor off the floor, and slid it on over my undershirt.
We might have been going in light and fast, but they still had AK-47s and who knew what else.
I pulled my Browning from it's holster, and exchanged the flush magazine for an extended 20 rounder. I slid it back in it's holster, and checked my blades before softly closing the rear door.
Monster climbed out.
“He send the text yet?”
“I'm gonna move up to the bushes, peek thru. When you get the text, come on up. Stay low, whisper.”
Monster didn't say anything, just waved his hand in the air, the big Ruger in it.
I moved up the grade, going lower with each step, so that by the time I came to the edge of the property marked with the bushes I was on a knee.
There was a broken streetlight, illuminating nothing. A narrow, crumbling, potholed blacktop that might have bene poured the year I was born. Maybe. I didn't see cameras, or sentries.
Thankfully, I didn't see any dogs. I hated having to kill guard dogs.
I didn't like it, but it didn't mean I they were or weren't there.
Everything I'd seen, coupled with instinct told me Chris, much like the man he'd been hired to kill, had been given a chance to play at a level out of his league. Being an amateur, he'd tried to get more and more elaborate and just made a bigger and bigger mess.
Now he was on the run, playing it by ear. I doubted this were something he'd set up before hand, properly equipped. This was the lay low of lore.
I heard the beep of monsters phone, and I looked back at him looking at his phone as he stepped toward me.
I moved the bezel on my watch, and finalized the approach in my head.
Monster trudged up the grade behind me, not bothering to stay low.
“Single file, stay behind me. We won't to make as small a signature as possible.”
“Man, are we gonna get bloody, or what?”
I turned back, and took a deep breath.
I said a prayer to the Old Gods, and then one to the God of my father. I believed in one about as much as the other, bastard though I was.
We moved calmly, but briskly, across the open expanse of the narrow blacktop and used a thick oak behind a wrecked, inhabitable trailer to cover our movement.
We paused at the tree, and I peered around it, looking for trash, fallen limbs, any sort of holes or debris that could trip us or make noise. Cataloging it in my mind, along with the feint light through the door on the side which I noted did not bleed through the dark curtains in the one window that could scope our advance. I moved again, staying within the envelope of shadows provided by the tree and trashed trailer.
At the end of the shadowed wreck, I crouched down and leaned out just far enough to confirm the emptiness, before finishing the last leg of the trip, moving briskly but not fast enough to raise the noise level across a small yard and another crumbling lane of black top.
I crouched at the end of the trailer, and grimaced as Monster fell in behind me with heavy stomping footfalls.
Short minutes dragged slowly past. I checked my watch twice in three minutes, just for something to do.
In books and movies the hero is always fucking perfect, always calm, cool, and collected. Zen'd out and zoned out on his own awesome, too cool to care. In the real world, your mind is in overdrive. Your senses are heightened, some animal part of your brain is collecting every sight, smell, and sound, the taste and color of the fucking air, and processing it at lightning speed. Your intuition is the alarm that goes off when there's something array.
You expect things to go bad, because there's no such thing as a perfect op. It doesn't exist. So when nothing pings you check your watch to measure.
Which is why you never look as cool as they do in the movies.
Inside the trailer dim words were exchanged, and I heard the front door open. I drew my pistol, and held it in tight, at a compressed high ready, left hand on the blade in my belt.
Heavy footfalls toward the cars in the drive way beside us. He was about 16, hard eyed but not nearly as hard as some I'd seen at that age. He walked between the cars and made a show of lighting cigarette. He stopped behind the sedan, the nearest one to us.
“So how's this going to work?” He asked in hush, facing away from the front door so that I was looking at his profile.
“Anyone in this room right here on the end?”
“'Course.” His voice was less than enthusiastic. Traitors very rarely can stand seeing owning themselves.
“You finish that cigarette, we're gonna fall in behind you. Once you go thru that door, move hard to the left. I'm going across it. Monster is going right.”
“OK, man.” He took a long pull of his cigarette, and blew smoke rings in the air.
“Let's get to it.” He tossed the butt on the ground, and turned around.
Monster following I turned the corner, staying low, and moved between the car and trailer, falling in behind the turncoat as he started up the stairs. He opened the door, and stepped left and I rushed thru.
I moved quick and hard and I had I brought the arm holding the gun to full extension as the big man started to rise off the couch.
“Stop right there.” I spoke low, held a finger to my mouth. “Do you want to live?” I asked. I could kill them all and sleep soundly, but it'd be faster, easier, and much more quiet if they'd just turn on Chris and give me the girl.
“Oh, no, Johnny Reb. No sir. That wasn't the deal at all. They got to die,” Monster Maupin came just behind me, and to the left. His tone was normal, conversational, but there was something wrong.
He's not in his corner.
And then, gunfire.
Pistol shots, to be precise. Screaming between each shot.
I dropped the hammer on the big one and spun, dropping down, and trying to move on the lateral as I did so.
There was someone I didn't recognize, a kid, firing a Tokerev.
Monster's turncoat was falling, a line of bullets stitching his spine.
I snapped thru shots with barely a flash sight picture and the boy's head exploded.
A shotgun erupted from the hallway, and punched Monster hard, his arm and side visibly damaged as he fell.
And then more screaming, and the third guy was on top of my back, and my arm was a strange combination of burning numbness and then I was tasting dirty shag carpet.
I know well how it works. I even kind of love it. It's an addiction like no other. But I don't know if I'll ever get used to being so in tune. I could feel every strand of 40 year old shag carpet on face in the split second it took me to realize my gun was no longer in my hand and didn't have much use of my primary arm and I had an asshole coming down on top of me.
I managed to roll onto my side and get my good arm up and put a boot in his thigh as he came back down with what appeared to be a crow bar. This blow hit my collarbone, but between the heavy armor and the boot to the thigh, I managed to keep from it from doing any real damage, though it hurt like a motherfucker.
I managed to grab the crowbar before he could re-cock it, and pulled him closer, bringing him into a headbutt, and then another. I saw stars with the second one, but they were dim and I could feel his enthusiasm for the endeavor wane.
I pulled the Boker Tuff from my belt, and buried it as deep as it would go into his sub-clavicle.
Blood sprayed like a lawn sprinkler on the back spring, and I pushed his dying body away from me.
There was a moment, then.
A long, slow, meandering moment.
Tonya was standing just inside the kitchen, a cut down shotgun in her hands.
Monster Maupin was leaning against the wall, his right arm limp, useless, blood pouring from the side of his chest as if it were a quickly filling spring.
Tonya stood there, mouth open as she tried to breath, her eyes filling with wet as she took her new understanding. The room itself, that old familiar Pollack of red and black death tones, each of us included. Her hands, holding the shotgun, a little more loose each micro-moment.
I picked up my pistol with my weak hand.
“Drop it, Tonya.” I told her. She looked at me. “Please.” It clattered on the floor.
“Man, fuck this bitch!” Monster brought his left hand up, a second pistol, a small revolver, in his hand.
I put the front sight on his ear and fired twice.
Monster fell, streaking blood down the wall as he did so.
Tonya was staring at me when Chris emerged, wrapping an arm around Tonya's head and pulling her close.
He sneered at me as I shifted, arm out at full extension, gun canted slightly for better visual reference with my right eye since I was firing with my non dominant hand. He sneered at me as I lined everything up.
He opened his mouth to speak.
I shot him twice, fast. The bullets punched through his upper lip at the bottom of his ocular cavity.
He dropped, Tonya scrambling as he fell away.
She stared at him a second, and then turned around the room, taking it all in again before her eyes settled on me. There was a chaos of emotion in here eyes, but the overriding one was fear. Fear of me.
I set the safety and slipped the gun beneath my belt.
“Tonya, we need to go. Now. I need to take you home.”
“You're not gonna hurt me?” she asked, meekly.
“We're figure out what to tell your mother on the way. We need to go. Now.”
“I need to get my purse.”
“Please do. Phone and wallet, to.”
I watched her step around dead bodies as I moved the arm, feeling the dull, burning ache spread. Nothing felt torn or ruptured, but I'd still need to get it check out.
A second later she came out of the hallway, stuffing her wallet and thin cell phone into her purse.
“You're do gonna exactly what I say, and not give me any trouble?”
“You're really not gonna tell my momma?”
“Not if you hold up your end and do what I say, no.”
And then we left.